Ides of March Movie Review
All the elements of a great movie except a plot.
This is a good movie in many regards. Acting was great from everyone, dialog was quick, clever, and well delivered, and the pacing appropriate for a movie based on a relatively sluggish subject, election primaries. However, the plot, which started off relatively strong, gets mired in betrayal, twists that seem more like shock paddles for a cardiac victim than legitimate story moving points, and a mounting sense that in spite of good, popular actors and well developed characters you are going to end the movie liking none of them. The movie ends with the feeling that, in spite of a bunch of stuff being resolved, nothing is resolved. The overall movie felt like I was trying to catch bubbles.
The story. Ryan Gosling (Drive, Lars and the Real Girl, Half-Nelson) plays Stephen Meyers, a campaign manager for the front runner in the Democratic primary, Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, Oceon’s Eleven, Up in the Air, the Peacemaker), a charismatic, passionate liberal like most Democrats wish Obama could be. His boss is Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Big Lebowski, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Moneyball), veteran campaigner who knows all the ins and outs of Washington. Morris’s rival is Pullman, whom we never really see. Who we do interact with is Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Played by the great Paul Giamatti, whom I have heard several times interviewed on the Howard Stern Show. Good interview IMO. Saving Private Ryan, Sideways, Cinderella Man), another ruthless campaign manager. They are aided by hot young intern Mollie (Evan Rachel Wood, the Wrestler, True Blood, and a bunch of small stuff. True Blood image from the horror movie t-shirts) who shows up on screen with a huge blinking neon sign saying “Trouble” as far as I was concerned.
Anyway, Morris is in the lead but there are a number of issues that could derail his campaign. Meyers makes the mistake of meeting with Duffy in a move that Paul will see as a betrayal. Meanwhile, he hooks up with Mollie in what looks like the easiest seduction of all time (God it must be easy for guys who look like Ryan Gosling. If you look like that I hope you get your face caught in a tree shredder at some point and get to see what life is like for the rest of us). Anyway, that is kind of where the plot starts to fall apart. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but some kind of obvious stuff goes on. Turns out everyone betrays everyone and, while appearing to be moral good guys, are all kind of bastards. Somehow the Republicans never surface in any significant way, making the overriding campaign feel as good as watching two brothers beat the hell out of each other. The movie ends without ever really giving the audience something tangible to grab on to.
There are two other problems plaguing this film in my opinion. One is that no one really cares about primaries, especially for fictional candidates that have no apparent commonality with any of the actual candidates. The in fighting between men who theoretically should be allies is annoying and frustrating, and that’s in real life. Had this movie actually been during the real election between the Republican and Democratic candidates than I think the audience might have cared more. As it is the whole movie had the same impact I would have watching two candidates for Homecoming Queen back stab and connive against each other as they campaign.
The other problem compounds the first one and that is a lack of passion from any of the characters. I thought Ryan Gosling was playing a deadpan robot in Drive as a plot device, but it turns out that all he is capable of delivering. He doesn’t show any emotion in pretty much the entire movie, even when presented with situations wherein a normal person would (getting betrayed and fired, having someone close to you die, etc). This deadpan delivery spreads out from him and infects pretty much every other actor in the film, except for the young intern Mollie. Paul Giamotti is great when he is yelling and screaming at people, but never gets the chance. Hoffman gives a long speech about loyalty and betrayal to Gosling before firing him and he could have been discussing which pet groomer he brings his dog to for all the emotion he had. I actually lay this firmly at the feet of director George Clooney. He gets his actors to sink their teeth into the dialog in a very real delivery, but then doesn’t let them show anything when spitting it back out. Might be a reflection of his own acting style, which tends towards the dry.
Anyway, the stars. Excellent casting and acting, except for the emotionless stuff. Two stars. Great dialog. One star. I don’t know if the term to use is really character development, as there was less development and more just revealing previously hidden aspects of each characters personality, but a decent arc and character development. One star. Pacing and camera work were good. One star. Paul Giamotti. One star. George Clooney did manage to deliver a great performance as a presidential candidate. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. The plot got stuck in the mud halfway through the film and stayed there. Two black holes. Dry, emotionless acting from most everyone. One black hole. There was never a reason given for the audience to really care about anything that was going on. One black hole. By the end of the movie every character seemed like a different kind of bastard and I liked none of them. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
So a total of two stars, kind of a middle of the road score and about what I left the theater feeling. If you like political drama, George Clooney, or Ryan Gosling go see it (although, as my friend who was with me was quick to point out, no bare chested Gosling scenes). If you are looking for something exciting or well developed, give it a pass. Not a great date film in my opinion, as it might end up seeming really dry. There is absolutely nothing visually motivating you to see it on a big screen, so I think it totally doable on NetFlix.
That’s it for now. New stuff coming out soon, but unfortunately (for me) it mostly looks like crap. I’m working on a new list that I will put out tomorrow that I think is pretty funny. Follow me on Twitter. Talk to you soon.